Wednesday, April 23 2014, 09:23 AM MDT
Get Gephardt: Census Survey Might Look Fake, Has Real Consequences
By Matt Gephardt
(KUTV) Neil Humes got a thick letter in the mail. It claims to be from the federal government, but Neil was suspicious because the letter asks for all sorts of personal information.
“What's your most recent job?” Neil reads from the letter. “Then they want to know how much you make."
The letter says it's the American Community Survey and it's not addressed to Neil specifically, it just reads "to the resident of" and then his address. And Neil is warned that he must fill out the letter, or else.
“They said it's required by law and that if you don't do it there's a penalty," he said.
Neil assumed the letter was a scam and ignored it but then the phone calls began. Neil says someone claiming to be from the U.S. Census Bureau asking if he was going to fill out the form. When Neil and his wife told the caller, no, Neil says the caller curtly told them that their house would be declared “unresponsive,” and then the line was disconnected.
Not sure if the survey might actually be real and not wanting to face a penalty if he does ignore it, Neil decided to Get Gephardt to investigate.
So this time, we called the U.S. Census Bureau through their public relations department. They confirmed, the survey is not a scam. The bureau says that the information they collect helps, "determine how more than $400 billion dollars of federal funding each year is spent on infrastructure and services."
As for Neil, knowing it wasn't a scam, he did complete most of the survey. A wise decision because the U.S. Census Bureau can impose a fined of up to $5,000 to citizens that refuse to answer the questions on the form.
Still, Neil was prudent to be cautious. There are a lot of scammers out there who have been known to send similar forms trying to trick people into giving up their personal information. The Census Bureau does ask some private questions, but they never ask for money and don't ask for social security numbers or birthdays or anything like that.
If you have questions or concerns about whether the American Community Survey is legitimate, call 1-800-354-7271 for additional confirmation.
(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)